Press Releases

FLEET ASSIST ACHIEVES MILESTONE OF OVER 80% OF ITS GARAGES HAVING THE CAPABILITY TO SERVICE AND MAINTAIN HYBRIDS AND EVS 7 September 2020

Vincent St Claire Managing Director
Vincent St Claire, Fleet Assist MD

Fleet Assist is celebrating another milestone as over 3,800 of its network, which comprises franchised, fast fit and independent garages, are capable of working on hybrid and electric vehicles.

To be recognised as a 'hybrid and EV ready' garage a technician will have completed, as a minimum, the IMI Level 2 qualification in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Operation and Maintenance and have suitable premises.

This gives technicians the knowledge and skills required to work safely on electric/hybrid vehicles whilst carrying out diagnostic, testing and repair activities.

With hundreds and thousands of hybrid and electric cars being sold since 2017 and the number of fleet vehicles using its network passing 1.1 million, becoming 'hybrid and EV ready' continues to be an important part of Fleet Assist's network strategy.

Alphabet (GB) utilises Fleet Assist's maintenance network for its 138,000-strong vehicle fleet and like all leasing fleets is experiencing a large demand for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Alphabet's Interim Chief Operating Officer, Clive Buhagiar said: "Following the improved government incentives offered to those choosing electric and hybrid vehicles, the network is growing at a rapid pace.

"It's important that garages understand how to support these drivers and are future proofing their businesses.

"We're delighted to be working with Fleet Assist who have been working on this initiative for a number of years now.

"At Alphabet, we are taking an ever-increasing number of orders for electric and hybrid vehicles, so together with Fleet Assist, our customers can be safe in the knowledge that we have a service, maintenance and repair network that can cater for their differing needs."

Fleet Assist's Managing Director Vincent St Claire said: "We have been working on ensuring our network could deal with the marketplace changes since 2017 and as early as 2018 50% had this capability.

"It's testament to the relationship we have with our network and through the use of our Atlas business intelligence system that the capability of each garage is recorded and available to our customers.

"This is supported by periodic audits which are completed by our network development team to ensure we direct the servicing work to the most relevant garages," he added.

FLEET ASSIST SECURES TUSKER NETWORK MANAGEMENT AND SERVICE BOOKING CONTRACT FOR A FURTHER THREE YEARS 5 August 2020

Kit Wisdom - Operations Director, Tusker
Kit Wisdom - Operations Director, Tusker

Tusker, the Car Benefit People, has extended Fleet Assist's contract to provide its garage network and service bookings services for a further three years .

Fleet Assist has a network of 4,700 garages, all with service level agreements in place, including negotiated labour, parts and fluid terms. Tusker's customers receive a consistent UK-wide service, as well as keeping maintenance costs under control from Fleet Assist which runs the largest network management team in the industry which is closely monitored using its class-leading systems.

Additionally, Tusker will continue to use Fleet Assist to provide a vehicle service booking facility to direct customers towards its preferred garage network.

Tusker has grown its fleet to over 20,000 cars in the past 20 years and Fleet Assist has been working with Tusker since 2006.

"Fleet Assist is renown as a specialist and has been an integral supplier in helping us grow for nearly 15 years. Wherever our drivers are based we know its garage network will deliver a very consistent and high level of customer service on our behalf," explained Kit Wisdom, Tusker's Operations Director.

"Access to its sophisticated Atlas IT system ensures we have the business intelligence to help us understand fleet maintenance trends in great detail. We can view trends daily and drill down and analyse all of our data right down to detail on individual vehicle's SMR profile whilst it is on our fleet."

Wisdom continues "Since the changes to 0% BIK for battery electric vehicles, Tusker's drivers have swiftly been moving towards electrification. Fleet Assist has ensured that we have the right balance of franchised and independent repairers that have electrification capabilities."

Karen Ewer, Fleet Assist's Head of business development said: "Our partnership with Tusker is very strong and we have enjoyed celebrating their fleet growth. We help them understand how fleet SMR expenditure continues to change and how savings can be made by comparing different manufacturers, makes and models."

"Ultimately our service booking and network is set up to deliver market leading driver experience and provide operational efficiencies for Tusker," said Ewer.

FLEET ASSIST HIGHLIGHTS IMPORTANCE OF PROACTIVE SMR GARAGE NETWORK MANAGEMENT FOLLOWING DEALER CLOSURES 6 July 2020

Vincent St Claire Managing Director
Vincent St Claire, Fleet Assist MD

In recent weeks nearly 20 franchised dealers have either closed or are set to close following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, and Fleet Assist is highlighting these closures could potentially give rise to servicing and warranty challenges for fleets.

"Over the recent weeks as new scenarios emerged, my team has provided a comprehensive mapping service to our fleet customers to ensure, wherever possible, alternative garages are available for work direction and business continuity," explained Vincent St Claire, Fleet Assist's managing director.

"With the challenges faced by COVID-19, including the potential for further spikes and subsequent lockdowns, we have highlighted how a robust SMR garage network management with the scale and capabilities to meet these ever-changing requirements, is key to keeping drivers' cars roadworthy.

"In today's environment to simply say you have a list of garages with assumed terms, is not good enough. A network of garages with contracted terms, defined SLAs and a clear indication of their capabilities proactively and continually managed by a dedicated team, is essential," he added.

Even during the recent lockdown Fleet Assist using desktop audit capabilities proactively recruited a further 30 dealers to its 4,700 strong network of garages to meet the needs of its customers during the initial lockdown.

UK DEALER SERVICING AND MOT NETWORK IN GOOD HEALTH AS COMPANIES PREPARE TO RETURN FROM LOCKDOWN, SAYS FLEET ASSIST 6 May 2020

Nearly one half of Fleet Assist's UK servicing outlets have been open during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown to keep the nation's company vehicle and key worker fleets on the road, according to its analysis.

It reported that on average 46% of its garage network remained open during the April lockdown, equating to 2,177 sites. That figure is forecast to rise above 50% during May and is expected to further increase in June and into early July when it anticipates its network of over 4,700 garages should be fully operational.

Fleet Assist has been providing its contract hire, leasing and rental customers, who collectively operate more than one million vehicles, with regular updates on its garage network coverage throughout the lockdown. They have been using this to help companies plan their employee and vehicle return to work strategies.

"The servicing network has remained very resilient during lockdown, particularly across the independent and fast fit sectors. Even those franchised dealers that had officially closed were willing to open to maintain key workers' cars. They have been at the top of every garage's priority lists", explained Vincent St Claire, Fleet Assist's managing director.

"The maintenance network is already scaling up to manage the expected backlog of service jobs that will be forthcoming when lockdown is relaxed", he added.

Vincent St Claire Managing Director
Vincent St Claire, Fleet Assist MD

Fleet Assist says the UK MOT network is also in good shape with 2,101 Class 4, 308 Class 5 and 811 Class 7 sites open for business at the beginning of May.

"Fleets should be aware that the maintenance and MOT networks remain robust in terms of coverage as we come out of the pandemic lockdown. We have added several new garages to our network and parts supply has yet to be an issue, with a number of suppliers continuing to report good parts availability despite factory shutdowns. This spells good news for when companies start back to work," said St Claire.

FLEET ASSIST NETWORK SUPPLIERS CONFIRM THEY HAVE PLANS IN PLACE TO PROVIDE CONTINUITY IN 'NO DEAL' BREXIT 9 October 2019

Fleet Assist has issued a 'don't panic' message to the fleet industry in respect of vehicle parts supply from motor manufacturers, suppliers and independent chains after surveying the sector with less than a month to go before the UK is expected to leave the European Union on October 31.

The leading supply chain management specialist to a significant number of the UK's major contract hire and leasing companies and rental firms, collectively operating more than one million vehicles, has updated its Brexit analysis based on information supplied by almost every motor manufacturer as well as parts suppliers, independent high street chains, windscreen repairers and fast-fits.

Fleet Assist has made the information from its latest Brexit survey available to all of its customers to allay any potential fears, notably in respect of the possibility of increased vehicle downtime in the event of any delayed supply of vehicle parts.

Chris Crow, head of network services at Fleet Assist, said: "The responses we have received to our most recent survey on Brexit preparations relating to vehicle parts supply delivers a reassuring picture to our customers and the fleet industry generally."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the UK will leave the European Union on October 31 with or without a deal with the European Union.

However, at least in the short term, Fleet Assist's survey suggests that the supply of spare parts will not be hampered by a 'no deal' Brexit with almost all component suppliers reporting that they had stockpiles at warehouses and distribution centres.

Motor manufacturers typically reported that they had an "increased volume of parts" with many reporting that they had sufficient supply for "several weeks". What's more, some have gone further advising that they had "increased stockholding levels by an additional six months until the position is clarified post-Brexit".

Furthermore, parts suppliers, independent chains, windscreen repairers and fast-fits also reported millions of pounds invested in additional stock at national distribution centres, warehouses and at a local level.

One supplier's comment summed up the collective action saying: "We have invested heavily increasing the amount of parts held at our central stores to ensure parts availability for our customers, which will contribute to reducing prolonged periods of vehicle downtime. Our plan is very clear: to initially over supply ourselves with fast-moving parts to lessen the impact of slower than usual dispatch times from our European supply chain."

What's more with a number of Korean and Japanese manufacturers not having a European production or distribution export facility they point to the fact that there would be "no significant impact to supply" as a result of a 'no deal' Brexit, with supplies imported from the Far East.

Last month the European motor industry warned of the "catastrophic consequences" of the UK leaving the European Union without a deal with fleets - and consumers - told to expect new car, commercial vehicle and component price rises as a consequence of the imposition of World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs on imports, unless brands and their retail networks could absorb the additional costs. If tariffs are applied, new car prices could rise by 10%, commercial vehicles by up to 22%, reduced this month to 10% on imported rigid trucks, (an average 13.5% for light vans) and vehicle components by up to 4.5%.

Additionally, the introduction of WTO tariffs and the end of barrier-free trade would almost certainly mean, the industry warned, the collapse of its 'just-in-time' business model resulting in delays in the import of vehicles and components, all adding to fleet operating costs.

Currently it is estimated that some 80% of replacement car parts fitted to British cars are imported, with almost three-quarters of those coming from European Union-based suppliers.

In the medium to long-term, organisations surveyed by Fleet Assist said they would take "whatever action is necessary to protect our business customers, and other partners, to minimise disruption and ensure continuity". However, some added: "There remain many factors that are outside of our control. Therefore, it is impossible to guarantee that we can mitigate against every eventuality and unintended consequence resulting from a 'no deal' exit from the European Union."

Mr Crow concluded: "Our customers frequently ask what actions we are taking in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit and our survey of manufacturers' parts supply arrangements and continuous dialogue to ensure all information is as up-to-date as possible, is just one example.

"The numerous suppliers that we have spoken with have confirmed that they have vastly increased the stockholding of parts and, in some cases, have established 'bonded warehouses' and dedicated ports of entry to meet duty requirements to avoid delays at import locations."

EXPANDING FLEET ASSIST APPOINTS CARL BLOTT TO FINANCE DIRECTOR ROLE 2 September 2019

Fast-expanding Fleet Assist has appointed Carl Blott as its finance director as the company continues to gear up for further growth.

Carl (50), who has a 25-year motor industry career behind him, has taken on the role full-time having fulfilled the job on a contract basis since November last year.

Leading a four-strong finance department, Carl also joins Fleet Assist's senior management team already comprising: Vincent St Claire, managing director; Jonathon Smith, chief information officer; Chris Crow, head of network services; and Karen Ewer, head of business development.

Fleet Assist, the leading supply chain management specialist to a significant number of the UK's major contract hire and leasing companies and rental operators, recently completed a move to new headquarters in Huntingdon. The new offices provide the company, which employs almost 50 people, with both significant additional space to expand and improved access to a wealth of potential staff to ensure it can continue to evolve its customer service focused delivery.

The company provides those leading contract hire and leasing companies and rental organisations collectively supplying more than one million vehicles to customers nationwide with a network of more than 5,000 franchise and independent service outlets which undertake service, maintenance and repair (SMR) work on company cars and vans. The network and its service booking product is supported by a contact centre and technical authorisation services as well as industry-leading data analytics.

Carl, who has worked in both the motor vehicle franchise network and contract hire and leasing sector including spells at Lex and Pendragon, latterly spent eight years at Tusker, which specialises in providing vehicle leasing and salary sacrifice car benefit solutions and is a customer of Fleet Assist. At Tusker he was head of finance before being appointed head of business transformation.

Carl said: "One of my key objectives is to bring Fleet Assist's award-winning software 'Atlas', which has functionality that includes providing a wealth of SMR data analytics and business intelligence in real-time to customers, and finance systems together.

"Further integration will result in even greater levels of reporting that will prepare Fleet Assist for the continued expansion of its services. I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead. It promises to be an exciting time for the business."

Managing director Vincent St Claire said: "We are delighted to appoint someone with Carl's experience and knowledge of the motor industry as our finance director."

"His appointment and joining the senior management team allied to the move to new offices ensures we future proof the business to enable the continual development of the products and services offered whilst ensuring they are scalable. Both developments reflect Fleet Assist's ongoing commitment to invest in assisting our customers.

"We continue to see significant interest from more contract hire companies as well as rental companies in helping them to manage vehicle SMR; and, with an ever-increasing focus on cost management, there is growing interest from customers in utilising our vehicle maintenance authorisation service and our service booking facility."

FLEET ASSIST SEEKS FURTHER EXPANSION AS IT COMPLETES MOVE INTO NEW OFFICES 5 August 2019

Fleet Assist, the leading supply chain management specialist to a significant number of the UK's major contract hire and leasing companies and rental operators, is ready to expand further after moving into new offices.

The company, which launched in 2003, delivers a range of services to businesses collectively supplying more than one million company cars and vans to fleet customers nationwide.

Fleet Assist has relocated to Huntingdon from its former Gaynes Hall, Perry, Cambridgeshire, base and the new offices provide the company with both significant additional space to expand and improved access to a wealth of potential employees to ensure it can continue to evolve its customer service focused delivery.

Currently employing almost 50 people, Fleet Assist now has the capacity to increases its capabilities with particular focus around its service booking product.

It enables customers to direct work in conjunction with Fleet Assist's award-winning software 'Atlas' into the company's network of more than 5,000 franchise and independent service outlets which undertake service, maintenance and repair (SMR) work on company cars and vans. The network is supported by a contact centre and technical authorisation services as well as industry-leading data analytics.

Vincent St Claire, managing director, Fleet Assist, said: "Managing a network is more than just agreeing terms; it is about providing a quality network with visibility of data about individual garage capabilities and the transactions undertaken. That information allows customers to make informed decisions on where to direct their SMR work to ensure maximum cost control combined with superior customer service."

Other services provided by Fleet Assist include:
  • Vehicle maintenance authorisation
  • SMR data analytics
  • Consultancy to a range of organisations, including motor manufacturers, seeking to use the company's fleet SMR data and marketplace knowledge.

Data analytics and business intelligence are provided through 'Atlas', Fleet Assist's sophisticated industry-leading online operating platform, accessible in real-time by all customers. Key users are the operational, technical and risk departments within the company's customer base.

Atlas brings together more than £2 billion worth of individual vehicle SMR transaction from Fleet Assist's customers to provide them and their end-user fleets with unparalleled business intelligence into vehicle maintenance spend. Growing by 2,000 invoices per day, daily updates means those in charge of SMR budgets at Fleet Assist customers are no longer waiting for monthly reports; while information collected also allows them to identify and react to spend changes; drill down to understand how fleet SMR expenditure continues to change and how savings can be made by comparing different manufacturers and models.

Mr St Claire said: "The major reason behind the decision to move was to support our long term objective to combine gradual growth supported by us having the right talent in the business coupled with an environment to bring innovation to the market place.

"Fleet Assist's new headquarters is situated close to good public transport and road links, which provides an improved location to recruit new staff and is easier for visitors to find."

"Improved facilities and local amenities for employees allied with enhanced communication access further reinforced the decision to relocate."

"The decision to invest in the new office facility ensures we future proof the business to enable the continual development of the products and services offered whilst ensuring they are scalable."

"We continue to see significant interest from more contract hire companies as well as rental companies in helping them to manage vehicle SMR and, with an ever-increasing focus on cost management, there is growing interest from customers in utilising our service booking facility and vehicle maintenance authorisation service."

WLTP INTRODUCTION TRIGGERS POTENTIAL WHOLELIFE COST INCREASE FOR FLEETS AS VEHICLE SERVICE INTERVALS REDUCE 8 April 2019

Introduction of the Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) is triggering potential increased fleet wholelife costs as motor manufacturers cut service intervals.

What's more, September 2018's introduction of the WLTP emissions and fuel economy testing procedure has resulted in new vehicle supply being impacted resulting in fleets extending the operating life of existing company cars and a subsequent rise in servicing costs.

The 'hidden costs' of WLTP have been identified by Fleet Assist, which provides leading contract hire and leasing companies and rental organisations with a network of more than 5,000 franchise and independent service outlets which undertake service, maintenance and repair (SMR) work on collectively more than one million vehicles supplied to customers across the UK.

Analysis by Fleet Assist has identified examples where on a typical three-year/60,000-mile or four-year/80,000-mile contract, a diesel car was likely to require one additional service thus potentially pushing up SMR spend and overall wholelife costs. Petrol-engined cars do not appear to be similarly affected.

Service interval reductions vary across motor manufacturers - and many cars are subject to flexible servicing intervals impacted by driving and journey profile - but they are typically of the order of 2,000-5,000 miles, although on some models a service interval reduction of 8,000 miles has been identified by Fleet Assist.

More rigorous servicing is due to the introduction of WLTP and related Real Driving Emissions (RDE) test, which results in increased strain on a vehicle's engine. That increased strain and subsequent reduced oil life has resulted in a cut in the maximum oil change interval. Petrol engined cars are not similarly affected as they use different after treatment systems.

Chris Crow, head of network and technical services, Fleet Assist, said: "Manufacturers are adopting different strategies with regards to vehicle service intervals post-WLTP regulation testing and that information is gradually bring provided to us.

"Nevertheless, a clear general trend is emerging and that is that some diesel cars - as well as vans as they become subject to WLTP testing - look as though they will require more frequent servicing typically due to greater oil use. That will inevitably impact on fleet servicing costs and trigger a rise in vehicle wholelife costs.

"Given the variability of service intervals across vehicle manufacturers and the influence of condition-based servicing, it is yet another issue that fleet decision-makers and maintenance managers in contract hire and leasing companies must feed into the WLTP-influenced decision-making process when selecting new vehicles."

Meanwhile, customer service bookings were, said Fleet Assist, 'significantly' up year-on-year in the final quarter of 2018 and that trend remained in the first quarter of 2019 as the delivery of new cars continued to be delayed by WLTP testing protocols.

Atlas Analytics is Fleet Assist's big data solution. Launched in November 2017 it brings together the £2 billion worth of individual vehicle SMR transaction from Fleet Assist's customers to provide them and their end-user fleets with unparalleled business intelligence into vehicle maintenance spend.

Vincent St Claire, managing director of Cambridgeshire-based Fleet Assist, said: "Fleet Assist experienced business growth throughout 2018, but our analysis has identified a surge in service work in recent months. Leaving aside the overall rise in the number of customers' company cars and vans now using our nationwide network of service outlets, we believe the increase, given the age and mileage of cars, is due to vehicles requiring an additional service as fleets extend replacement cycles due to delays in obtaining new cars caused by WLTP introduction."

'BUSINESS AS USUAL' AS COMPETITION LAW SHOULD BE RETAINED POST-BREXIT FOR VEHICLE SALES AND MAINTENANCE, SAYS FLEET ASSIST 25 March 2019

The fleet industry and garage network has nothing to fear in the near future with no shake-up in competition law governing vehicle distribution and maintenance as a result of Brexit, according to Fleet Assist, the leading supply chain management specialist.

The company provides service, maintenance and repair (SMR) solutions to a significant number of the UK's major contract hire and leasing companies and vehicle rental operators collectively supplying more than one million vehicles to customers nationwide.

Fleet Assist provides those leading contract hire and leasing companies and rental organisations with a network of more than 5,000 franchise and independent service outlets which undertake SMR work on company cars and vans. The network is supported by a contact centre and technical authorisation services as well as industry leading data analytics.

Answering concerns from some partners - contract hire and leasing companies, rental organisations and network garages - that the UK's departure from the European Union could signal the end of Block Exemption rules and subsequent changes in current regulations, Fleet Assist said given the information available it should be "business as usual".

That's because post-Brexit the UK Competition and Markets Authority has said that European Union Block Exemption regulations will be retained in UK law under the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

Existing European Union competition law means:
  • Motor manufacturers are able to create networks of selective and exclusive dealerships, provided that they do not contain any serious restrictions of competition.
  • Motor manufacturers have to provide authorised repairers with access to technical information and spare parts. This regulation is particularly important as it gives independent garages and fast-fits access to manufacturer information on SMR and also applies to the sale of spare parts.

Prior to implementation of the so-called Bock Exemption governing SMR and parts, vehicles were required to be serviced or repaired at a main dealer or there was a risk of invalidating warranty. That allowed main dealers a monopoly on all warranty and service work, and triggered allegations of price fixing.

The Block Exemption regulation applicable to SMR covers all service and maintenance during the warranty period and parts and allows vehicle owners/operators more flexibility in selecting where they can get vehicles serviced or repaired.

Thanks to that legislation, SMR work no longer has to be carried out by a main franchise dealer to maintain warranty validity as long as a garage/fast-fit undertaking the work uses original equipment or matching quality parts, and records as doing so, and completes the work in accordance with a manufacturer's service schedules.

As a result of the retention of European Union regulations within UK law, the motor industry relevant Block Exemptions will remain in force domestically and the respective European Union expiry dates preserved. The expiry date of the regulation relating to vehicle sales is May 31, 2022 with a one-year transitional phase. The expiry date of the law relating to SMR and parts is May 31, 2023.

The Competition and Markets Authority's has said that it "expects to consult on the Block Exemptions as they expire in order to provide advice to the Secretary of State".

EXPANDING FLEET ASSIST SET TO RELOCATE TO NEW PREMISES 19 March 2019

Fast-expanding Fleet Assist is relocating to offices in Huntingdon as the company seeks to drive forward with further growth.

The company, which launched in 2003, is today the leading supply chain management specialist to a significant number of the UK's major contract hire and leasing companies and vehicle rental operators collectively supplying more than one million vehicles to customers nationwide.

Fleet Assist, which currently employs almost 50 people, provides those leading contract hire and leasing companies and rental organisations with a network of more than 5,000 franchise and independent service outlets which undertake service, maintenance and repair (SMR) work on company cars and vans. The network is supported by a contact centre and technical authorisation services as well as industry leading data analytics.

The company is planning to move in quarter two 2019 from Gaynes Hall, Perry, Cambridgeshire, to Unit 1, Sovereign Court, Ermine Business Park, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE29 6XU.

Vincent St Claire, managing director, Fleet Assist, said: "The major reason behind the decision to relocate is the ongoing expansion of Fleet Assist. The business is growing rapidly and the new offices provides the company with significant additional space to recruit new staff."

"The new office is situated close to good public transport and road links, which makes Fleet Assist easier for visitors to find and provides an improved location to recruit new staff."

"Improved facilities and local amenities for employees allied to enhanced communication access further reinforces the decision to relocate."

Year-on-year growth in the number of companies signing up to use the Fleet Assist network and related services, notably including SMR business vehicle intelligence, has enabled Fleet Assist to build up a wealth of SMR data. As a result, a diverse range of organisations utilise the company's consultancy service to obtain in-depth information on fleet car and van in-life expenditure to help establish real world whole life operating cost trends and even more accurate SMR cost figures.

Looking forward, Mr St Claire said: "The decision to invest in the new office facility ensures we future proof the business to enable the continual development of the products and services offered whilst ensuring they are scalable.

"We continue to see significant interest from more contract hire companies as well as rental companies in helping them to manage vehicle SMR; and, with an ever-increasing focus on cost management there is growing interest from customers in utilising our vehicle maintenance authorisation service and our service booking facility."

FLEET ASSIST WORKS WITH MOTOR MANUFACTURERS TO ENSURE A 'HARD' BREXIT MAINTAINS VEHICLE PARTS SUPPLY 14 March 2019

Fleet Assist is working in tandem with motor manufacturers to allay any fears among its customers and its extensive network of more than 5,000 garages that a 'hard' Brexit could result in vehicle parts supply disruption.

The leading supply chain management specialist to a significant number of the UK's major contract hire and leasing companies collectively operating more than one million vehicles and rental firms, has compiled a report based on information supplied by almost every motor manufacturer.

Regularly updated, the report reveals on a manufacturer-by-manufacturer basis that most have implemented contingency measures to safeguard against all eventualities, a 'hard' Brexit - or 'no-deal' Brexit - could trigger.

Fleet Assist has made the information available to all of its customers so they can inform their end-user fleet clients, and allay any potential fears notably in respect of the possibility of increased vehicle downtime in the event of any delay vehicle parts supply.

As the UK Government continues to look for a negotiated deal that will resolve the current Brexit impasse as the clock ticks down towards the nation's scheduled departure date of March 29, motor manufacturers' responses can be summed up in the words of one: "Contingency planning has focussed on systems and process changes to enable the importation [to the UK] of parts under all Brexit outcomes."

Most of the motor manufacturers have also indicated that they have increased stocks of parts - particularly those in high demand - in some cases for several weeks so franchise network supplies can continue in the event of a 'hard' Brexit, which remains the UK's default position. Furthermore, one manufacturer was so confident in its arrangements that it said it would be "business as usual".

Vincent St Claire, managing director, Fleet Assist, said: "There have been several stories in some areas of the press and some surveys highlighting that a 'hard' Brexit will have an impact on vehicle parts supply.

"However, whilst we do not want to underestimate the potential seriousness our dialogue with motor manufacturers indicates that they have taken responsibility and implemented actions that, in the worst case scenario, ensures continuity of parts supply as far as they possibly can.

"While it is clear that motor manufacturers have taken measures to maintain parts supply, it has to be acknowledged that, as one car maker told Fleet Assist, there remained many factors that were outside their control. Therefore it is impossible to guarantee manufacturers can mitigate against every eventuality and unintended consequence resulting from a 'no-deal' exit from the European Union."

Mr St Claire continued: "As the network management company for many vehicle contract hire and leasing companies and rental organisations it is incumbent upon us to understand what is happening in terms of parts supply and advise accordingly.

"Our customers frequently ask what actions we are taking in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit and our survey of manufacturers' parts supply arrangements and continuous dialogue to ensure all information is as up-to-date as possible is just one example."

Fast-growing Ogilvie Fleet has more than 18,500 vehicles on lease and under fleet management and uses the Fleet Assist garage network.

Jim Hannah, operations director, Ogilvie Fleet, said: "We are making the information available to our customers because it is vital that they are aware of any issues, such as parts supply, that may arise as a result of Brexit. It is important that customers are advised as to the actions our partners - including motor manufacturers - are taking to ensure, as far as possible, business as usual. Forewarned is forearmed."

The motor manufacturers' report is the latest in a number of initiatives undertaken by Fleet Assist in a bid to ensure its customers and network of garages are prepared for a 'no-deal' Brexit, while also raising issues particularly in relation to potential parts cost rises as well as the possibility of increased vehicle downtime.

Karen Ewer, head of business development, Fleet Assist said: "As well as regularly updating our garage network and providing our best advice notably in terms of parts stocking levels. We continue to explore and build our relationships with a number of parts suppliers.

"It is business-critical that our partners - service outlets and parts suppliers - are as prepared as possible for whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations are so that they continue to offer a first-class and uninterrupted service to fleet customers once the UK leaves the European Union.

"The actions that motor manufacturers have taken in response to the possibility of a 'no-deal' Brexit helps to allay fears that, as most garages operate a 'just-in-time' parts ordering process, any delays could lead to increased vehicle downtime."

Currently it is estimated that some 80% of replacement car parts fitted to British cars are imported, with almost three-quarters of those coming from European Union-based suppliers.

One factor outside of the control of the motor industry is the introduction of trade tariffs in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has said that unless manufacturers and their dealer networks were able to absorb the impact parts prices could increase by an average 4.5%.

However, the Department for International Trade has announced under a temporary scheme that will last 12 months from 11pm on March 29, that most imports into the UK, including car parts from the European Union in a bid to prevent supply chain disruption, would not attract a tariff in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit.

FLEET ASSIST TARGETS 2019 GROWTH AS IT PASSES MANAGING MAINTENANCE ON LANDMARK ONE MILLION COMPANY VEHICLES 7 January 2019

Fleet Assist has started 2019 with a bang as on-going expansion means that the number of customers' company cars and vans now using its nationwide network of service outlets has accelerated through the one million barrier.

Fleet Assist provides leading contract hire and leasing companies and rental organisations with a network of more than 5,000 franchise and independent service outlets which undertake service, maintenance and repair (SMR) work on vehicles supplied to end-user fleets across the UK.

Year-on-year growth in the number of companies signing up to use the Fleet Assist network and related services, notably including SMR business vehicle intelligence, means that the number of company cars and vans collectively 'touched' by Fleet Assist and its service outlets now totals more than one million units.

Continuous expansion has enabled Fleet Assist to build up a wealth of SMR data to the extent that today a diverse range of organisations utilise the company's consultancy service to obtain in-depth information on fleet car and van in-life expenditure to help establish real world whole life operating cost trends and even more accurate SMR cost figures.

Additionally, Fleet Assist's continuous growth means that network garages are securing an increasing volume of fleet SMR work that keeps workshops busy.

Fleet Assist was launched in 2003 and, in addition to a national network of service outlets, has expanded to deliver a range of other services that includes:

  • Service booking enabling customers to direct work to network member garages
  • Vehicle maintenance authorisation
  • Undertaking garage 'health checks' to help them maximise aftersales business opportunities
  • Delivering consultancy services to a range of organisations, including motor manufacturers, seeking to use the company's fleet SMR data and marketplace knowledge

Atlas is Fleet Assist's sophisticated industry-leading online operating platform, accessible in real-time by all customers. Key users are the operational, technical and risk departments within Fleet Assist's customer base.

Atlas Analytics is Fleet Assist's big data solution. Launched in November 2017 it brings together the £2 billion worth of individual vehicle SMR transaction from Fleet Assist's customers to provide them and their end-user fleets with unparalleled business intelligence into vehicle maintenance spend.

Growing by 2,000 invoices per day, Atlas Analytics gives customers the ability to slice the data to suit individual needs showing them:
  • Where in the country;
  • With which repairers;
  • On what types of vehicle and;
  • On what types of jobs SMR budgets are being spent.

Daily updates means those in charge of SMR budgets at Fleet Assist customers are no longer waiting for monthly reports; while information collected also allows them to identify and react to spend changes.

Karen Ewer, head of business development at Cambridgeshire-based Fleet Assist, said: "Sophisticated IT systems are now available to drill down and analyse all the data we have captured to provide customers with detailed information on every aspect of each vehicle's SMR profile during its fleet life."

"Such data is hugely powerful to organisations as they seek to understand how fleet SMR expenditure continues to change and how savings can be made by comparing different manufacturers and models."

"Development of real business intelligence is critical for use by Fleet Assist customers in helping them and their clients - end-user fleets - to drive cost savings and operational efficiencies."

Mrs Ewer concluded: "Client retention coupled with success in securing new business with both leasing companies and rental firms means that Fleet Assist anticipates further growth in 2019 that will build on new contracts wins in 2018."

Grosvenor Group, which includes Grosvenor Leasing and Interactive Fleet Management operating a combined fleet of some 14,000 vehicles, has used the Fleet Assist network for almost 14 years.

James Parnell, head of purchasing and maintenance at the UK's largest privately-owned contract hire, fleet management and rental specialist, said: "Our business partnership with Fleet Assist has worked well for many years.

"Fleet Assist has the capacity to negotiate SMR rates with individual garages and audit those outlets in terms of the services they provide and their capability and that gives us confidence that we are working with best-in-breed service centres."

"The ability of Grosvenor Group to access Fleet Assist's SMR data not only in respect of vehicles on our own fleet, but information relating to more than one million company cars and vans is hugely important in terms of trend analysis."

"In turn that influences our vehicle maintenance rates and, if major issues occur, we can join forces with Fleet Assist and its other vehicle leasing and fleet management company customers and approach motor manufacturers for solutions, which may be more difficult as an individual business."

JCT600 Vehicle Leasing Solutions, which has 6,500 company cars and vans under lease and fleet management, was one of Fleet Assist's founding customers more than 15 years ago.

Brian Kirby, business support director, said: "When Fleet Assist launched what it was offering sounded fantastic and so it has proved: access to a managed network of garages and online work authorisation. For JCT600, at the time, work authorisation was a manually intensive process and the company did not have an approved supplier network."

"Over the years JCT600 has introduced more Fleet Assist services notably including service booking, which importantly provides the company with work direction flow management."

Referring to Atlas Analytics, Fleet Assist's online SMR business intelligence tool, Mr Kirby said: "The technology is fantastic as it gives us the ability to interrogate SMR data; view average spend versus competitors; review our SMR work penetration across the Fleet Assist network so we can influence the direction - franchise or independent garages; and we use the data to identify trends and consequently make adjustments to our SMR forecasts."

Fleet Assist's continuous expansion also means that its network of service outlets are seeing a ramping up in the volume of fleet-related SMR business undertaken.

Mike Palmer, managing director of In Town Automotive, one of the largest independently owned vehicle servicing and repairs garage in Northampton, said: "Fleet SMR work is incredibly important for the business. Company car and van drivers who experience our excellent service will then encourage family members and friends to use us thus generating further additional benefit for the garage."

What's more recent investment by In Town Automotive in diagnostic equipment and technicians' training means that it has the capability to handle SMR work on the increasing number of plug-in vehicles operated by fleets; and the company has introduced the TechMan garage management system to further improve vehicle workflow and management reporting.

Mr Palmer said: "Growth in the number of vehicles going through the workshops has given In Town Automotive the confidence to further invest in its future. That is good news all round and business secured as a result of belonging to the Fleet Assist network is the catalyst."

Sam Tordoff, group operations manager at Bradford-headquartered JCT600, which operates 52 dealerships across the north of England, said: "Fleet Assist is our largest customer on the 1Link Service Network and as its client base has expanded so we have benefited by undertaking a greater volume of SMR work. That development is aided by the significant geographical spread of the JCT600 network across Yorkshire, up to Newcastle and south into Lincolnshire.

"The relationship with Fleet Assist is a true business partnership that is mutually beneficial. We deliver excellent customer service to their clients and that is rewarded by JCT600 securing continuous business growth."

"We meet regularly with Fleet Assist to discuss how the business partnership can be enhanced and that has, for example, extended to include their management of our online service network platform."

Graham Wright, group aftersales development manager at Ford-owned TrustFord, which comprises 47 dealerships and through an alliance partnership works with a further 254 Ford dealerships, said: "We have massively expanded our share of fleet SMR work as a result of being a Fleet Assist network member."

"Fleet Assist is very consistent with its approach to business; its uniformity and its systems are easy to use. That gives me and all the dealers' confidence to embrace and see the partnership expand."

"It would be very difficult for me to obtain a business partnership with all the vehicle leasing and rental companies that use the Fleet Assist network. So by joining the network and working with Fleet Assist it means that we ensure all of our workshops are full."